The University Record, May 6, 1997

Vitamin E shows promise

From Medical Center Public Relations

Vitamin E, as well as the Parkinson's disease drug selegiline, have each been found to slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in the April 24 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. This Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study was conducted at 23 sites nationwide, including the Medical Center.

The findings are based on the results of patients with moderately severe Alzheimer's who took 2,000 I.U. (international units) of vitamin E per day, and those who took a daily does of selegiline. In both sets of patients, the drugs delayed the major milestones in the progression of the disease---the loss of ability to care for oneself, institutionalization and death. According to Norman L. Foster, associate professor of neurology, these endpoints were reached an average of nine months later in the patients who took the drugs compared with those taking a placebo.

"Vitamin E for Alzheimer's has been advocated to help memory loss by alternative medicine practitioners for a long time," Foster said, "but there has been no evidence to support its use. Now we are going to start routinely recommending vitamin E to our Alzheimer's patients."

A study will begin this fall at the Medical Center and nationwide giving vitamin E to patients at high risk of developing Alzheimer's to see if it has similar benefits in delaying the actual onset of the disease.

Forest cautions people against starting to take vitamin E or selegiline to prevent Alzheimer's, since there is not yet evidence that these drugs help patients with even mild symptoms. Furthermore, such a high daily dose of vitamin E can have negative side effects, including bleeding problems.